White-collar crime growing focus for gangs

Usually when people think about gangs and gang activity they associate the two with drug crimes and drug rings as made popular by movies and television shows like Scarface and The Wire. A new federal report shows that real gangs in today’s economy are engaged in activity that is more diverse than the one dimensional pop-culture stereotypes. According to the recent federal report more gangs in the United States are focusing on white-collar crimes like mortgage fraud.

According to the national gang threat assessment for this year, more gangs are cooperating with transnational drug trafficking organizations to reap more money and to expand their range of activities to not only include drugs and guns trafficking but also mortgage fraud and counterfeiting. In particular white-collar crime has been an increasing focus for gangs. Specific examples were mentioned in the report.

Members of the Bloods in San Diego were charged with mortgage fraud and racketeering. A member of the East Coast Crips in Los Angeles co-owned a clothing store and used the store to sell counterfeit drugs and traffic drugs. The report by the National Gang Intelligence Center also cited a case where a member of the Florencia 13, a Los Angeles based gang, operated a lab that made pirated video games.

Gangs are also cooperating across borders. Ninety-nine members of the Armenian Power gang located in southern California are suspected of working with supposed crime figures in Armenia, Russia and Georgia. The Armenian Power gang members were charged with bank fraud, extortion, drug trafficking and kidnapping.

The report also says that gang membership in the United States has also grown over the last two years. In 2009 gang membership was estimated to be around 1 million, and membership is believed to have increased by 40 percent to 1.4 million.

Source: cbsnews.com, “Feds: Gangs swell in size, try new crimes,” Oct. 21, 2011

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